Members of the Mineola High School football team wore pink socks and arm bands in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month during their October homecoming game Saturday. But for team captain James Gerstner the attire had a deeper meaning.
"I am wearing them for my mom," he said.
Gerstner, a senior, lost his mother, Diane, to breast cancer when he was 11 years old. Although it was an extremely difficult time in his life, he said, he was able to get through it with the support of his family and the Mineola Union Free School District.
"I went to a grieving support group through my school back then," said Gerstner, now 17.
Gerstner says he is still thankful to Donna Beck, a social worker who Beck said helped him through the process.
"I was able to learn how to talk about what I was feeling," he said. "Life knocks you down, but you have to fight your way through it."
Gerstner is doing just that through his involvement in his family's breast cancer charity, We're Fighting Back.
"I am very proud of him," said his father, Norbert Gerstner. "Both of my boys are strong men, and we work together as a team."
Gerstner is now looking toward his future. He hopes to attend the United States Merchant Marine Academy next year.
To young children who are dealing with the loss of a parent, he has a message.
"It will be tough in the beginning, but you can't let it break you down," he said. "The pain won't last forever. It will get better."